Notre Dame women steamroll Virginia Tech

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – It took a few minutes to get their engines clicking, but once that happened the Notre Dame women’s basketball team rolled to an easy 80-41 victory over visiting Virginia Tech Sunday.

Coach Muffet McGraw’s Irish, now 19-1 and atop the Athletic Coast Conference standing, hit only four of their first 15 shots and held a slim, 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. That’s when Arike Ogunbowale came in and things started steamrolling for Notre Dame. The Irish hit 10 of their next 12 shots.

“I thought Arike gave us great energy off the bench,” said McGraw. “When Arike came in that is when things started rolling for us.”

The Irish freshman Ogunbowale said, “I don’t want to come in and go crazy," she said of her tendency to immediately take the ball to the basket. "It’s hard at at the college level, but I think I am getting more comfortable."

“I want her to look to score. She has a scorer’s mentality,” said McGraw. “I think her shot selection has gotten a lot better.”

Ogunbowale finished with 15 points and six rebounds and helped the Irish race through some impressive spurts to take control of the game. The Irish ran off a 19-2 spurt to go from a 5-2 deficit into a 21-7 lead when Brianna Turner took a pass from Kathryn Westbeld and scored at the 4:30 mark of the second quarter.

After a Virginia Tech basket, Notre Dame scored 20 of the next 27 points and the game was comfortably in hand.

“Yes, I think there was an intimidation factor,” said Tech coach Dennis Wolff. “That’s part of what happens in women’s basketball. It gives them a leg up to start with.”

McGraw likes that.

“I hope so – I want to have that persona. I think our crowd definitely helps that. They see all those people and they are loud. We can be that kind (intimidating) of team,” she said.

The Irish turned the tables on the Hokies, who entered the game as the best defensive team in the ACC, giving up only 48 points a game. But it was the Notre Dame defense that was stellar in this matchup. The Irish held the Hokies to only 11 first-half points, a season low on defense for Notre Dame. The 41 points Tech scored was well below its season average of 62 each outing.

Nine different Irish saw double-digit minutes of playing time and many of the starters were able to watch most of the second half from the bench.

“It’s good to be able to rest the starters for long periods at this time of the season,” said McGraw. "Coco (Kristina Nelson) gave us good minutes today as did Mychal Johnson."

Nelson tied her career high with five rebounds in 12 minutes of court time, while Johnson scored nine points in 20 minutes.

“Mychal played really well defensively in our last game,” said McGraw. "Today she made some shots and continued to play good defense.”

Turner led Notre Dame with 18 points, and Marina Mabrey added 12 for the Irish, now 7-0 in ACC play. Virginia Tech fell to 14-5 (2-4). The Irish did have an off-afternoon shooting the three-point shot, making only four of 14 shots.

But they took advantage of offensive mismatches to feed solid entry or lob passes to Turner, who was seven of 10 from inside. Notre Dame also was masterful on the backboards, grabbing 44 rebounds to only 25 for the Hokies.

“In order for us to handle them we have to be more efficient on the offensive end,” said Wolff. “We were not aggressive enough, except for Sidney (Cook).”

Cook led the Hokies with 21 points.

They have good size. Their guards are good sized as well. They can switch without being hurt,” Wolff added. “Defensively for us, they have a terrific post player and point guard. It’s hard to decide who our defense can help on – they have so many scorers.

The point guard he referred to is Lindsay Allen. The Notre Dame junior started her 97th consecutive game, tying the Irish set by South Bend Washington’s Jacqueline Batteast from 2002 to 2005.

Three of the next four games for the Irish are on the road. They play at Georgia Tech Thursday, at Duke on Monday before returning home to meet North Carolina State on Feb. 4. That Sunday they play at Lousville, the only other unbeaten ACC team entering the weekend.

VIRGINIA TECH (14-5): Sidney Cook 7-17 5-5 21, Hannah Young 2-9 0-0 5, Vanessa Panousis 4-13 0-0 10, Chanette Hicks 0-6 0-0 0, Taijah Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Alana Gilmer 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Camp 0-3 0-0 0, Samantha Hill 0-0 0-0 0, Tara Nahodil 0-0 0-0 0, Dominique Powell 2-6 0-0 4, Khadedra Croker 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 15-55 6-7 41.

NOTRE DAME (19-1): Brianna Turner 7-10 4-7 18, Lindsay Allen 2-4 0-0 4, Madison Cable 1-3 0-0 2, Michaela Mabrey 3-7 0-0 8, Kathryn Westbeld 3-5 0-0 6, Arike Ogunbowale 5-10 5-5 15, Marina Mabrey 3-8 6-7 12, Mychal Johnson 3-4 1-2 9, Kristina Nelson 1-3 0-0 2, Hannah Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, Diamond Thompson 1-1 2-2 4. Totals 29-55 18-23 80.

Virginia Tech 7 4 14 16—41

Notre Dame 11 20 23 26—80

3-Point Goals--Virginia Tech 5-18 (Cook 2-4, Panousis 2-8, Young 1-5, Camp 0-1), Notre Dame 4-14 (Johnson 2-2, Mi. Mabrey 2-6, Ogunbowale 0-1, Cable 0-2, Ma. Mabrey 0-3). Fouled Out--Hicks. Rebounds--Virginia Tech 25 (Cook 9), Notre Dame 44 (Ogunbowale, Turner, Westbeld 6). Assists--Virginia Tech 9 (Hicks 3), Notre Dame 19 (Allen 6). Total Fouls--Virginia Tech 21, Notre Dame 11. A--8,958.

Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale battles Virginia Tech's Dominique Powell for a loose ball during Sunday's game.Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN